[hackerspaces] In defense of Noisebridge (even if I was never there!)

Colin Keigher general at keyboardcowboy.ca
Thu Jul 3 20:09:33 CEST 2014

I think that allowing a space to call itself a "hackerspace" while 
trying to become something more poisons the movement for everyone else 
and likely ruins it.

Groups like IndyMedia failed because of their insistence on promoting a 
viewpoint that was extreme. This viewpoint ended up coming into play 
because of individuals who got involved who had certain attitudes. It is 
these same types of individuals who contributed to IMCs being looked 
down upon. Tragedy of the commons really played a role in making 
IndyMedia irrelevant.

This same plague that took down many of the IMCs is the same plague that 
can take over a hackerspace. This is the plague you want to avoid if you 
want to make sure that your space does not end up trying to become 
something it has no business becoming. Much of the problems that people 
want to tackle that spaces have no business being a part of should be 
addressed in the public sphere through government and political 
activism. A hackerspace should only be there to provide tools to assist, 
not solutions.

Asking for diversity in hackerspaces as a whole is going to lead to 
hackerspaces being looked down upon and will lead to Noisebridge-esque 
jokes being hackerspace-esque instead.

- Colin

On 03/07/2014 10:52, matt wrote:
> I'd think this strikes to the heart of defining the mission of a 
> space.  At NYC Resistor we went with Learn, Make, Share... but 
> obviously we needed to limit some other aspects of what we might 
> accomplish in order to protect the core mission.
> And that core mission really is the gooey center of our community.  
> It's something we're all on board with.
> So I think the question of politically activism in hackerspaces 
> strikes to the very core of a hackerspace as a community.  By being 
> political you've become unwelcoming to those who might disagree with 
> your views, and your goals. You've focused more on building the 
> community you want to be a part of.
> I'd say that's probably a good thing for those who are part of that 
> community and make that community a healthy one.
> That being said, I think some communities are obviously toxic... such 
> as what remains of Occupy.  And frankly, I'd say the same of 
> Indymedia.  It's interesting as it drives to the core of how do you 
> cultivate and how do you define the metric of success for a healthy 
> community?
> At the same time there is the dichotomy of hackerspace as a public 
> utility rather than as a community.  My library is not a place I go to 
> enjoy the company of my peers.  It's a place I go to get access to 
> shared knowledge in the form of books. And that's great.
> Some spaces may want to be ran as a public utility.  I think the 
> noisebridge model drove that direction.  But some of the members never 
> could let go of the idea of being a community and enjoying the 
> benefits of that trust relationship.  They couldn't reconcile the 
> divide between hackerspace as a public utility and hackerspace as a 
> community.
> And I think at the core of this discussion is the question of whether 
> or not these two views are irreconcilable.
> On Thu, Jul 3, 2014 at 1:46 PM, Randall G. Arnold 
> <randall.arnold at texrat.net <mailto:randall.arnold at texrat.net>> wrote:
>     Texas politics are very polarized these days and get ugly quick,
>     so we've tried to get our community to leave that aspect of their
>     lives at home.  There's a strong tea party undercurrent to our
>     membership though, and it is what it is.  So far people have been
>     respectful enough to let the provocative comments be, and we
>     haven't had an issue.  Yet.
>     That said, I'm not sure how that question came out of what I
>     posted, which was apolitical.  I do get that societal issues CAN
>     get political, but we've put a lot of effort into avoiding the
>     polarizing aspects.  Things like clean air and water aren't really
>     political issues-- they're politicized by people with non-maker
>     agendas.  Restoring horned lizards cuts across all demographics
>     here-- everyone wants them brought back. So in cases like these,
>     it's easy to pull together people of diverse political leanings. 
>     We put our focus on the COMMON goals.
>     Randy
>     Tarrant Makers
>>     On July 3, 2014 at 12:32 PM Al Billings <albill at openbuddha.com
>>     <mailto:albill at openbuddha.com>> wrote:
>>     Is your space welcoming to people, regardless of personal
>>     politics or do you have to be a specific kind of
>>     lefty/socialist/anarchist/hippy/whatever in order to be welcome?
>>     I say this as a socialist but I don't want there to be a
>>     political litmus test on whether people are welcome in a space.
>>     My space has members who, quietly on occasion, bitch about Obama
>>     and his "agenda" with an eye roll from some other members. We
>>     have a communist or two and probably more than a few anarchists.
>>     Generally, I know someone for a year or more before I even
>>     realize their personal politics. Why? Because we're there to
>>     hack, not to form a political party.
>>     There are definitely spaces where this isn't the case. If you
>>     aren't on board with the specific local politics (which are
>>     usually a certain specific form of left leaning anarchism), you
>>     are shunned pretty heavily and "don't fit in." I'd rather have a
>>     Republican that wants to build a project from salvaged computers
>>     than an anarchist that just wants to hang out in the kitchen
>>     "food hacking."
>>     Al
>>     On Jul 3, 2014, at 10:28 AM, Randall G. Arnold <
>>     randall.arnold at texrat.net <mailto:randall.arnold at texrat.net>> wrote:
>>>     I disagree when you frame that as an absolute.  Sure, there CAN
>>>     be negative outcomes when a maker/hacker space or organization
>>>     has fixing societal problems as a goal, but it ain't necessarily
>>>     so.  It all comes down to defining the goal(s), having people to
>>>     support them and for members with different goals to be
>>>     respectful of each other and not get in each other's way.
>>>     If as a makerspace member I put together a special interest
>>>     group that builds remote wildlife monitoring stations for
>>>     helping horned lizard conservation, and I don't disrupt anyone
>>>     else in the process, then I'm positively hacking the planet and
>>>     no one gets hurt.  Win-win.
>>     Al Billings
>>     albill at openbuddha.com <mailto:albill at openbuddha.com>
>>     http://makehacklearn.org
>     Randall (Randy) Arnold
>     Developer and Enthusiast Advocate
>     http://texrat.net
>     +18177396806 <tel:%2B18177396806>
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